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Decorative Fall Blocks

September 13, 2012

Happy Thursday! I hope you are having a great week.

Well it officially feels like fall in our neck of the woods and this week I decided it was time to break out the fall decorations. I absolutely love this time of year and couldn’t wait to start transitioning the house.

Last week, Taryn from the awesome blog Design, Dining and Diapers posted this awesome project for Industrial Decorative Pumpkins.  Although we were traveling last week, I couldn’t wait to get home and give this project a try.

Inspiration from Design, Dining and Diapers:

So, without further-ado, here is my take on Taryn’s cute Industrial Decorative Pumpkins.

Decorative Fall Blocks:

Here is what I did to make my version of the fall blocks. First, I had my husband cut four 3 x 3 blocks using scrap wood we had lying around the house.

Next I used some leftover sample paint (Valspar’s Cream in My Coffee) and painted the blocks cream.  I then used some fun scrapbook paper I have been dying to use for a project and cut out the letters FALL. I simply found a font I liked in word, printed the letters onto card stock paper, traced them onto the scrap-book papers, and cut them out. So easy!

Next came mod-podging my letters on to the blocks. After that, I used some gold thumbtacks I had in our office in place of the nail Taryn used on her Industrial Pumpkins. I had some raffia in the closet so I tied a few pieces on to the tacks to finish it off.

I am really happy with how they came out. These would also be really cute with a child’s name for a nursery as well.

Thanks for reading. Have a great day.

~Kara

Linking to:

Happy Hour hosted by Design, Dining and Diapers, Crafty Scrappy Happy, and Craft Berry Bush

DIY Fall Festival hosted by DIY Showoff 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

September 10, 2012

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great weekend.

I don’t know about you but to me it feels like summer is officially over and that fall has arrived. Boy that happened quickly! While I am enjoying the cooler temperatures (it sure was a hot summer), I am definitely not loving the shorter days.

This week’s photo challenge topic is near and far. Here is my photo for the week:

I love this picture of Little A sitting on the hotel bed playing during our recent vacation. As a new momarazzi, I absolutely loved all the light we had in our hotel room thanks to the big window so I played around with the camera for a bit until I was able to capture little A’s silhouette. With the ocean as our backdrop, to me this picture really embodies near and far.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

~Kara

Frugal Fridays – Taking Advantage of Free Picture Deals

September 7, 2012

Happy Friday everyone!

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, little A and I are visiting family this week out-of-town. So instead of continuing with part 3 of my current Frugal Friday series on how I use coupons to save money (see part 1 here and part 2 here), today I wanted to take a quick moment and chat about taking advantage of free stuff, particularly free picture deals. Who doesn’t like getting things for free? I am always on the look out for free things – especially things I need and will buy anyways!

Since the birth of little A just over 9 months ago, I am a typical momarazzi that has taken a ton of pictures and like to get the best ones developed every few weeks to keep them current. It is also fun to surprise the grandparents with some recent pictures when we visit them or just send them a card with a few pictures to make them smile. I am always on the look out for free pictures or coupon codes for free picture-related products (such as here and here).

So if you have been waiting to develop some photos, here are some great deals you should definitely know about:

1) Shutterfly

If you haven’t joined Shutterfly yet, you can sign up for a free account and get 50 free 4 x 6 prints. You do not even have to pay shipping – you can choose to pick up your pictures at Target, Walgreens or CVS. Shutterfly is a great website to use for pictures even after you get your free batch. They regularly run awesome specials on photo books, magnets, etc.

2) York Photo

If you don’t have an account with York Photo yet, you can sign up and receive 40 free 4 x 6 prints. You will just have to pay about $2.74 for shipping. Another awesome deal for sure.

3) Walmart Photo Center

If you haven’t registered for a Walmart photo account yet, you can sign up for a free membership and you will receive 25 free 1-hour 4 x 6 prints. You will receive an activation code in your Photo Welcome email for instructions on redeeming your free photos.

Next week I will resume part 3 of my Frugal Fridays series on using coupons to save money so be sure to stop back next week.

Hope you have a great weekend!

~Kara

Gluten-Free Chocolate/Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

September 6, 2012

Happy Thursday everyone!

I hope you are enjoying this short week. Little A and I are visiting some family this week and are enjoying the change in scenery very much.

Today I am excited to share with you an awesome recipe for chocolate chip cookies (that I of course add peanut butter chips to – hence the Chocolate/Peanut Butter Chip Cookie name). There are a few awesome things about this recipe, the first being that it is easily made gluten-free and tastes awesome! I have been gluten-free for about 8 years now and I am always on the lookout for really good gluten-free recipes – especially ones for sweet stuff! Over the years I have tried a TON of different gluten-free flours and products and have been disappointed one too many times with the way my recipes come out.  In my opinion some gluten-free all-purpose products just don’t adapt well into regular recipes.

However, I recently tried this Better Batter Gluten-Free all-purpose flour and I am in love.

For me it is the best gluten-free all-purpose flour on the market. The box says it can be used as a cup for cup equivalent for regular flour and I have found that to be the case in a few receipes I have tried. It really rocks! I purchase mine through glutenfreely.com but I am sure it is available at other places as well.

So back to an awesome recipe using this flour.

Gluten-Free Chocolate/Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Adapted from this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie (an awesome website)

(Recipe makes about 8-10 cookies – depending how much dough you snack on :))

  • 1/3 c. plus 1/4 c. better batter all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 2 T. chocolate chips, 2 T. peanut butter chips
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 2 T. white sugar
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 T. vegetable
  • 3 T. vanilla soy milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix your dry ingredients first, then add your wet ingredients. Mix well and then add the chocolate/peanut butter chips. Form into balls and bake for 7-8 minutes.

Another awesome thing about this recipe is that it only makes 8-10 cookies. Sometimes I am in the mood for cookies but don’t want to make a million cookies. This receip is just enough to have a few sweet treats around for a day or so (instead of several).

I am sure this recipe is great with regular flour as well but I obviously cannot speak to that.

Hope you enjoy the cookies as much as I do.

Oh, and if you are interested in checking out another awesome gluten-free cookie recipe (that also includes peanut butter and chocolate), be sure to try these flourless peanut butter cookies. They are equally as good.

~Kara

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day everyone! I hope you are enjoying this nice long weekend. We are visiting with family and enjoying our time very much.  It is hard to believe summer is coming to a close but I am very excited for the coming fall season. I love everything about this season – the changing leaves, the fall smells, the cooler temperature, decorating my house for the fall. The list goes on.  I am excited to have some fall decorating projects and recipes to share in the coming weeks.

Back to the topic of todays post – the weekly photo challenge. This week’s topic is free spirit.

How cute is my little free spirit?

Hope you have a great day.

~Kara

Frugal Fridays – Saving Money with Coupons Part 2

August 31, 2012

Happy Friday! I hope you are having a great week.

Welcome to week two of my new series called Frugal Fridays. If you are new around here, Frugal Fridays will feature tips and tricks for saving money — mainly because saving money makes me awfully happy and I am sure it does you as well!

The first topic I am covering in this series is how I use coupons to save money. In last weeks post, I shared a few steps for how I save money with coupons.  Here is a brief review:

1) Getting Coupons (the Sunday paper)

2) Preparing the Coupons (writing the date on the top of each insert and filing it away)

3) To Cut or Not to Cut (cutting only my essential coupons each week, saving the rest until I need them)

4) Organizing My Coupons (using my coupon organizer to file away my essential coupons)

If you recall, I ended last weeks post by discussing the two items I use to organize my coupons: 1) my coupon binder and 2) my coupon organizer.

I ALWAYS carry both this binder and organizer with me just in case I find a good deal. They are both small enough to comfortably fit into my purse.

Now, as promised, on to step 5 in my couponing process:

5) Planning My Shopping Trips

Before we jump in to how I use my coupon binder to keep me organized when shopping and planning my trips to the store, I first have to let you in on a very important secret — if you really want to save money couponing, you should only use coupons to buy what is on sale. For me this was a huge revelation. I was always under the mistaken impression that once I cut a coupon I had to use it right away because I had it (and probably because I was afraid I would lose it if I didn’t use it fast). BIG MISTAKE. Instead, you want to have a good system in place for storing and organizing your coupons UNTIL the time comes that there is a good sale. Then, and only then you buy. You with me?

A sale +  a coupon = real savings

Please don’t make the mistake I used to make of simply buying items because you have a coupon. You will not save much (if any) money this way.

As you are probably aware, most stores have a weekly sale flyer that comes out on Sunday with specials for the following week. Some are “advertised” specials (they are in the flyer) and others are “unadvertised” specials, meaning you won’t know something is on sale until you see it in the store. Unadvertised specials is one of the main reasons why I carry my coupon organizer with me at all times. This way if I see something that I need that is on sale, I am prepared with my coupons even if it wasn’t on my list to buy (see below).

So every Sunday morning I gather all of the Sunday ads (and my cup(s) of coffee) and take a look at what is on sale. I do an initial scan to see how the week is looking. There are three main grocery stores in our area that I shop at, three main drug stores (CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid), and two supercenters (Target and Walmart) – for a total of 8 stores. I am very lucky to have so many options.

I then start making my list. This list will include not only the basics we will need for the week, but also any good sales that are too good to resist. For example, even though I may not need ketchup a particular week, if there is a good deal on it I am buying as many as I have a coupon for. But here is where a little bit of work comes in. I have to figure out what coupons I have in my coupon insert pile to go with the particular sales of the week. The good news is that there are many awesome websites out there that I use to help me accomplish this step more efficiently. Can you imagine just randomly leafing through this to find a coupon? No way!

The first is Money Saving Mom. This website has a coupon database that is awesome (under Coupons tab at the top of the site). I sit down with my sale flyers each week and type in various items that are on sale to see if I have any coupons that go with the sale. You simply type in the item and the database will tell you which coupon insert and paper the coupon can be found. For example, if your sales flyer says that Ken’s Salad Dressings are on sale for $2.28, I would type in “Ken’s” into the database. What I will find is that there is a coupon from the 8/12/12 Smart Source insert (SS = Smart Source, RP = Red Plum, P&G = Proctor & Gamble, and GM = General Mills) for $1/2 (or $1.00 off of 2 dressings). I generally right this deal right on my flyer so if I decide I want to do this deal, I have the information right on the flyer. Are you with me?

This is where my stack of coupon inserts with the dates written on top really comes in handy.

Because we wrote the date on each insert in Step 2 (Preparing the Coupons) and filed them away, if I know which insert a particular coupon is located in (such as the 8/5/12 SS insert), I can easily find the coupon I need.

So if I decide that Ken’s Dressing is a good deal, I just grab the 8/12/12 SS insert and cut out the Ken’s dressing coupon. Easy peasy. I also highly recommend using the Krazy Coupon Lady website to see what is on sale each week. This site lists most of the main grocery stores and all the major drug stores and super centers. Like the coupon database on the Money Saving Mom website, this site will also tell you where to find a particular coupon (which weekly insert).  On both websites, you will find a new post each week with all of the great deals and a list of all of the coupons that go with a particular sale. Isn’t that great? This makes planning my shopping trips much easier because these sites do a lot of the hard work for you.

Oh and another little tidbit – make sure you “like” both Money Saving Mom and the Krazy Coupon Lady on Facebook because their news feeds regularly provide great information on deals.

After I have used my sales ad and the above-described websites to look up all of the deals for the week and matching coupons, I then go and cut them from the appropriate coupon insert from my big stack. Or, if they are one of the “essential” coupons I already cut and filed in my coupon organizer, I will dig them out from the appropriate category so they are handy.

So let’s pause and talk briefly about my handy dandy coupon binder and how that comes into play for keeping me organized when I shop. As I mentioned in the first post, the key to really saving money with coupons is organization. I can’t tell you how many times disorganization has cost me money. If you have ever found an expired coupon in the bottom of your purse you know exactly what I am talking about!

This binder has 6 different dividers and each has a pocket on the front and the back (so that gives me 12 different tabs to work with). I have used the first 8 tabs for various grocery and drug stores and the last tabs to hold “store” coupons (more on that in a second), restaurant coupons, and receipts. The front also has lined paper in the front so I can jot down notes, meal plans, and price track (next week’s topic).

 

Now back to how I use this binder to organize my shopping trips. After I have reviewed the sale ads to decide what I want to buy, located and cut my coupons from the relevant coupon inserts, I then jot down a quick list of everything I will need to buy at the particular store on a sticky post-it note. The list goes right on the front of the individual stores pocket like so with the coupons I will use tucked in right behind.

If I have multiple coupons and will be buying multiple items, I simply write the item and then the number of items in parenthesis. That way, at the store I know from briefly looking at my list how many of a particular item I will need to buy. This method saves me a ton of time shopping and at the checkout.

There are many alternatives out there for shopping with coupons. Some people like to use an envelope for each store and write the list on the front of the envelope with the coupons inside.  That system may work great for you. However, the binder assures that I will not lose anything (like a loose envelope) so that is why I do it.

The binder also provides an easy way to file “catalina” coupons or individual store coupons that you may have. An individual store coupon is just that – it is only for a particular store.  Some places have store coupons that can be combined with manufacturers coupons (such as Target, Walgreens and CVS). When you use both an individual store coupon and a manufacturer coupon together on an item, this can lead to real savings (this is called “stacking” coupons). So back to the Ken’s salad dressing example. If you have a target coupon for Ken’s and the manufacturer’s coupon from the 8/12/12 SS, you could stack both coupons to buy one bottle of salad dressing for even bigger savings.  Make sense?

A catalina is a coupon that prints with your receipt at the end of your shopping trip. A catalina may be for an individual store only (e.g. a Target coupon can only be used at Target) or it may be a manufacturer coupon – just read the top of the coupon to see. So these individual store coupons and catalinas don’t get shuffled away with my receipt or stuck at the bottom of my purse, I stick them right back in the store’s tab so that I will have it the next time I shop or can file them away in the appropriate spot when I get home.

Sometimes you will go to a store with a stack of coupons but may not end up using them all. The store could be out of an item that you intended to buy (make sure you ask for a rain check), or the deal just wasn’t as good as you intended. If I come home with extra coupons that I did not use, I immediately file them away in my coupon organizer so they don’t get lost. I clean out both my organizer and binder every few weeks and dispose of any expired coupons.

Store Coupons: 

In addition to using coupons for our food purchases and general household goods, I also use store coupons whenever I can. Store coupons come from a number of sources including the Sunday paper (for stores like Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics) as well as in the mail (for stores like Kohls and Bed Bath and Beyond).

So how do I organize these coupons? Simple – they go in my “stores” pocket in the coupon binder. This makes organization very simple.  As soon as I come across a store coupon I think I may need, it gets cut and filed.

The same process is used for restaurant coupons. Whenever I see a restaurant coupon we may use, I immediately cut it and file it in my “food” pocket in the coupon binder.

This way if we are out and about and are looking for a place to eat, I can check to see what restaurant coupons we have. I like having lots of choices — especially when it comes to food!

So there you have it. This is how I use my coupon binder and the sales flyers each week to keep me organized when shopping. I would highly recommend trying to find a little binder like this if you can. Mine was purchased two years ago at Marshall’s for just a few dollars.

Next week I will talk a little bit more about using your sales ad to figure out what to buy each week, including price tracking and stockpiling when you find a good deal.

Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have. I would love to hear from you. Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

~Kara

Let There Be [Kitchen] Light

August 29, 2012

Have you ever heard someone tell you that it is best to live in a space before you start making any changes to it? The idea is that this way you truly know what you like, dislike, and how best to change the space. Now that I am a homeowner that has renovated several spaces in our home I think this is really good advice. Although it can be tempting to start changing things immediately, it rally is best to wait so you have a good sense of what is working and not working so you are in the best position to make changes.

This was definitely the case with our kitchen light and ceiling fan. It took us over three years of living in this house to decide we absolutely needed a new kitchen light and needed one bad. The main problem was this – it simply did not produce nearly enough light. Not even close given the size of our kitchen. Oh, and it was pretty ugly too.

Can you tell how dinky it was? It made it very difficult to see anything when you were cooking. Here is another picture of it, turned on this time.  Not much better.

So for $60, we just recently swapped the light out for one that matches the rest of our kitchen much better as well as functionally provides more light. We opted to keep the ceiling fan concept as I really like turning on the fan on hot summer nights. Here is a look at the final product.

It is definitely a better fit for the space. I love how much more light it produces and I love the way the black blades ties in with the rest of the space.  It only took my husband about an hour to install the new light so for $60 and an hour of time, it was an easy fix with a big impact.

But let me back up for a moment and share with you the progress we have made in the kitchen over the past three years.  Here is what the space looked like the day we moved in – March 2009. Although not really my style, the oak cabinets and formica counter tops were in pretty good condition.

The first thing we did before we even moved into the house was painted the baby blue walls. I just couldn’t live with the blue.  The space felt so washed out I knew we had to fix it fast. We opted for Valspar’s Tropical Nut. I absolutely love the color to this day. It is a real good cross between a red and an orange.  Here is what the space looked like post-paint:

Oh, and do you see the stain glass rose insert in the center cabinet? I replaced that immediately as well. Just not our style. I simply had a local glass company cut me a piece of frosted glass to size. I brought in the actual door and they replaced the glass for me in no time. I then sold the rose insert at a garage sale for a few bucks.

Following the paint spruce up and removal of the stained glass rose cabinet insert, we let the space be for about a year until our refrigerator died. If you can tell from the pictures, the appliances were all different colors when we moved in: white dishwasher, cream oven/stove, black microwave, and cream refrigerator.  I was waiting for the right opportunity to swap them all out and the dead refrigerator was the perfect time. So I sold the dishwasher and stove on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars and we used the money to purchase all new black appliances.

The matching black appliances made a huge impact in my opinion.

The next kitchen project came a few months ago when we decided to get rid of the white back splash. Again, not our style.

We tried to find a glass mosaic tile that would work with the black appliances and the oak cabinets. Here is what we ended up with:

The whole backsplash only cost us about $250 dollars.  We also switched out the white electrical outlets as well to go with the new tile and the appliances.

With the backsplash project complete, the only other immediate “to do” item in the kitchen was replacing the ceiling fan/light. And with this problem recently solved, we are finally starting to like the way the kitchen has come together. Of course there are still things we would love to do in the future (switching out the hardware on the cabinets, painting or replacing the cabinets, getting new countertops, oh the list goes on), but for now we are happy with how the space looks after some relatively easy and affordable upgrades: 1) new paint, 2) a new cabinet glass insert, 3) all new matching black appliances, 4) a new mosaic backsplash, and 5) a new ceiling fan and light.

BEFORE:

AFTER:

What do you think of the new kitchen light? Do you agree that it is best to live in a space for awhile before making any changes? Thanks for reading. Have a great day.

~Kara

BLISS AT HOME

by Kristin Cadwallader

Momtog Blog

A new mom blogging about all things that inspire, encourage and otherwise make me happy

The Krazy Coupon Lady

Search printable coupons and deals for Target, Walmart, CVS, & Walgreens. Find coupon codes for top brands and apps to save you money.

Design, Dining + Diapers

Design, Dining and Diapers

Young House Love

DIY Home Decorating Projects, Tutorials, & Shenanigans

BachsByTheBeach

All About Baby, Home Decorating, Places & Spaces, Cooking & Baking. Welcome to Our Life In Charleston!